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Comment & Analysis | Sport

Rangers innocent when proven guilty

lord nimmo
Lord William Nimmo Smith


ARTHUR MILLER’S excellent play The Crucible, about the Salem witch trials in the late 17th century, is an allegory of the communist witch-hunts in 1950s America. The original witch-hunts in Salem, as detailed in the play, saw innocent people found guilty of witch-craft and executed, all on the basis of no evidence other than false testimony. So it’s a bit rich that Lord William Nimmo Smith’s investigation into Rangers was dubbed a witch-hunt now that the club has been given a mere slap on the wrist having been found guilty of a crime on the basis of actual hard evidence.

Yet it’s funny how quick people are to change their opinion on something when it is suddenly in their interests. Lord Nimmo Smith’s investigation into Rangers’ EBT payments was derided by the club, its independence called into question, and dubbed a “kangaroo court” by fans, ex-chairman Alastair Johnston and ex-player Mark Hateley. However now the tribunal has in effect ruled in Rangers’ favour by not recommending the stripping of titles, Green and co. are using the verdict of that same “kangaroo court” as a vindication of their actions, as proof of innocence. A witch-hunt indeed… until it rules in Rangers’ favour, with Ally McCoist now praising the judge, saying he “makes decisions [for a living] — and I’d have to say he’s very good at it”.

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Despite being found guilty of not disclosing payments to players, the club and fans are treating the result as a victory, that they are the hard-done-by party. Charles Green has called for an apology from “many people”, while others — including, unsurprisingly, Craig Burley — have called for The Rangers to be admitted to the SPL. Fans meanwhile have blamed the ‘witch-hunt’ of Rangers for their faltering title bid last season and ultimate demise, calling now for the new club, The Rangers, to be promoted into the SPL on the back of Lord Nimmo Smith’s (guilty) verdict, overlooking the fact it was the club’s financial mismanagement under previous owners that led to their points deduction and liquidation. They also overlook the fact this guilty verdict relates to Rangers Oldco and its crimes — therefore even if they had been found innocent, it would have no bearing on whether the new club The Rangers, whose board and owners bear no responsibility for the crimes and wrongdoings of Rangers Oldco, should be fast-tracked to the SPL.

Unfortunately what seems to have been lost among the cries of “witch-hunt”, “kangaroo court”, “vindicated”, and “innocent” is that Rangers were in fact found guilty. For years the club broke the rules by not disclosing to football’s authorities payments made to players. In a court of law if someone receives less than the maximum sentence for the crime they committed, we don’t say it’s a sign of their innocence; instead the guilty party is usually relieved at receiving a lighter sentence — unfortunately Scottish football is a law unto itself, hence the recent air of exoneration despite Rangers being found guilty.

Lord Nimmo Smith ruled that “the board of directors sanctioned the making of payments under the side-letter arrangements without taking any legal or accountancy advice to justify the non-disclosure”. Basically, Rangers’ years of cheating was a mistake, an admin error. But again, in any court of law for any crime, you will be told that ignorance is no defence. Not so in Scottish football.

Lord Nimmo Smith said this ‘mistake’ by Rangers didn’t affect the eligibility of players so no sporting penalty — a retrospective points deduction or stripping of titles — was necessary. Yet the undeclared EBTs Rangers used and were punished for allowed them to minimise tax spend and maximise transfer/wages spend. So the valid argument could be made that had the Oldco not utilised the tactics for which it has been fined, Rangers wouldn’t have been able to afford the players in the first place that helped them win five titles during 2000-11. Yet if Rangers thought the EBT scheme was okay, why hide the payments from the SPL?

Whether we agree with the punishment or not, Lord Nimmo Smith is an impartial High Court judge and we must respect his verdict. He carried out a thorough investigation in the face of ongoing criticism from the start and the calling into question of his commission’s integrity and impartiality. No verdict he could have delivered would have pleased everyone so he was always on a hiding to nothing. But he had no vested interest in the proceedings, found Rangers guilty of failing to disclose EBT payments and administered what he feels is an appropriate punishment.

Rangers got to keep their titles despite breaking the rules, yet some The Rangers fans — and pundits, like Burley — have called Celtic’s title victory last season (and the titles they’re tipped to win over the next three years) tainted. Well, Celtic didn’t cheat en route to last year’s title (not even the misdemeanour of forgetting to declare payments to players). It was won fair and square. As for those who claim Celtic’s potential title victories over the next three years would be tainted due to the absence of a strong The Rangers, well, that’s a very high opinion to hold of a club whose previous incarnation was found guilty of cheating Scottish football and was liquidated after years of financial mismanagement. Their absence from the SPL is a result of their own failings.

It was of course that previous incarnation, Rangers Oldco, that was fined £250,000 by Lord Nimmo Smith’s commission and not The Rangers, the club currently in Division Three. So one thing that Lord Nimmo Smith’s verdict (a verdict that Green, McCoist et al have suddenly been quick to endorse after months of slating the commission) has reiterated, is that Rangers Oldco and Newco are two different clubs. And while The Rangers Newco shouldn’t be expected to shoulder Oldco’s punishment or burden of guilt, by the same token, why should they be entitled to the Oldco’s achievements? You can’t pick and choose your history.

So Rangers still have their record 54 titles. And with The Rangers hurtling inexorably to the Division Three title, may I congratulate them, albeit a few weeks early, on their first ever trophy in Scottish football — and in their first year of existence. Well done lads, see you in the SPL in 2015… maybe…


Gerard Donaghy

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13 comments on “Rangers innocent when proven guilty”

  1. Big Mike

    The disgusting lot have gotten away with it scott free as far as I am concerned. I think it is Celtic and the rest of Scottish football that has/is suffering as a result of the cheats from the south-side of Glasgow.

    • David Mccutcheon

      NMr donaghy , what you conveniently chose to ignore is Rangers did declare every penny of the EBTS in their accounts every year , unlike Celtic in 2005 with Jinihno. Rangers deliberately chose not go supply the side letters given to SOME players as this may have nullified the 100%legal EBTS and rendered them salaries and not loans .

      The club were found guilty of not supplying the side letters and would stil to this day refuse to supply them mcir the reasons given.

      However as you have such little work of any substance you are as well making your own story up to gain attention.

      Ps have you no stories a out Neil's tax dodge he did lose in court or his land deals with terrorists

  2. scott

    Great article, one point though, you say that nimmo is a high court judge and must be trusted, in reality, he's the first thing that must be doubted. I submit that all 3 judges are too clever not to have came to the conclusion that there was a sporting advantage. I further submit that as nimmo is a member of the speculative society, a clearly masonic group, that's resisted attempts to be investegated further thus far, that casting doubt on our judges must be our first priority in questioning the outcome.

    • Geordie

      Yeah yeah, it's all a conspiracy.

      Let's be clear. The payments themselves were not found to be illicit. Nor were they undisclosed (they were both in the accounts which were handed to the football authorities and in the information given to the SFA in connection with the club's UEFA licence). The offence was about handing over additional documents. Obviously the team on the field did not gain an advantage because extra documents were not submitted or were submitted slowly.

      Rangers go on. As Lord Nimmo Smith et al among various others have made clear, the club continues and is now run by a new company (newco). That obviously upsets some people. Good.

      • Nigel J Britton

        So, it's the same club.

        If that's the case why are they banned from European competition for three years?

  3. Danny Kelly

    Excellent summary of what actually happened unfortunately over here in Scotland the media are reporting it as some sort of vindication that they are innocent.It has put me and several people I know off attending any more games as the SPL and SFA are totally corrupt and run for the benefit of one dead club.Which they are trying to resurrect as the same club without the debt.

  4. TheBlackFlappyGoose

    The bitterness prevalent in this "blog" is sad.
    The fine was for Admin errors. Accusations of "cheating" were shot down in flames by Lord Nimmo though this point appears to be conveniently forgotten.

    As to Rangers being a "new club" .. The bigoted (minority) hordes whom worshipped at the altar of Rangers Tax Case blog (since discredited); those whom acclaim Phil Mcg & his rascist, "tarred with a sectarian brush" rants to his sectarian followers; their biased hate filled views will never change. Shame on them.

    Rangers will go on to collect their 55th title this year. Celtic will win the SPL.
    Football goes on.
    Unfortunately so does the bigotry & sectarianism from both sides of the Old Firm. And this article is written specifically to appeal to the minority idiots. Sad.

    • Jon Southgen

      Absolute nonsense. The point you so obviously avoid is the guilty verdict,and the lack of comensurate punishment. Guilty, of breaking the rules the club(now in the process of being liquidated and thats nothing to do with bigotry or sectarianism,merely fact )had agreed to abide by .Of course that comes as no surprise given that the same ex club should never have been issued a licence to play last season ,having failed to produce the requisite audited accounts on time. The RTC blog,far from being discredited, did,in fact, get every single point regarding the failure of the MSM to adress the EBT issue, correct. That was its function and the author repeatedly made it clear that he/she did not know how the tribunal would deal with the issue.We are left now with a brand new club having being given priority in its application for membership(and ,once again,like its predecessor,not compling with regulations regarding accounts) filling a compliant,complacent and compromised Main Stream Media with comments regarding severity and frequence of "punishments"!I repeat, absolute nonsense.

  5. N stafford


  6. treetops

    How refreshing to read a factual and honest piece on this issue. Sadly in Scotland, fear and mob rule dictates the media agenda. Scottish Football has hit rock bottom, dragged there by one Club and it's appeasers.

  7. mfd

    A very well written and iinformative article. Was it all part of a cunning plan that the fact they would not be losing points or ltitles was released hours before Lord Nimmos verdict.

  8. Kenny Green

    So the SFA rules say that a player is eligible to play as long as his registration has not been revoked. So if you lie through your teeth and register a player on false pretenses then everything is fine until you are found out and the player's registration is revoked. The worst that can then happen is a fine and no points will be docked. Why did the SFA lawyers draft the regulations so poorly? One suspects that Rangers lawyers saw this loophole and that is why they didn't disclose the side contracts at registration. They knew there wouldn't be any points sanction.
    Dumb SFA, clever Rangers, goodbye fair play and sporting honesty.

  9. David

    Actually the article misses a fundamental point. Rangers where accused of the equivalent of "murder", but found guilty of a minor technical breach, such as a parking ticket. This was the conclusion of the review, not my own. The fact that the SPL lawyers did not even understand their own rules with respect to registration really sums up what a sham this whole thing was ....


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